LA Gun Club at Palo Gallery, New York continues Jane Hilton’s twenty-five-year fascination with US subject matter.
Jane Hilton is a London-based photographer and filmmaker who is renowned for her work documenting American culture, in particular the American West, which she has explored for the past twenty-five years. Her coffee-table books and portraits have won much acclaim, encompassing a modern folkloric American and featuring communities of cowboys, working girls, burlesque dancers, gun club members and circus folk.
The exhibition of LA Gun Club at Palo Gallery, New York and limited-edition book is a logical continuation of her work exploring American culture and Americana, this time through one of the country’s most controversial pursuits, their almost unique constitutional right to bear arms.
The works, which were photographed in 2016 are more relevant than ever, given last years’ state of affairs. The work is now going to be displayed along with metal plaques which will be displayed on the wall underneath the work, along with the firearm, the shooters’ occupation and why they like going to the gun club.
Last year, the United States faced 649 mass shootings, making it the second-worst year for shootings in the nine years since the Gun Violence Archive began recording data—after a set of brutal mass shootings in Maine, California, Texas and Tennessee took the lives of dozens of Americans.
The roots of American gun culture date back to the first settlers of America, who used these weapons as a means of hunting for food, to make money through the fur market or as protection from wildlife. Today, the right to carry a firearm is a legal and cultural paradigm that allows its citizens, including those with a history of mental illness to own more than 300 million guns.
In 2016, Hilton visited the LA Gun Club in downtown Los Angeles, at the suggestion of her assistant and was captivated by the experience. Each participant can select from over a hundred target posters that range from minimalist human forms to cartoon bad guys. Hilton has documented the remains of these unique ’shot’ target posters that were made by a cross section of the community from a brain surgeon to a couple on a “date night”.
Jane met a cross-section of people over a ten-day period, interviewed them and took all the targets home, photographing the ones that had the most interesting story. “I met Biology teacher and a school principal, who said that went there for stress relief,” she adds. “One guy slept in bed with his girlfriend with two guns, out of paranoia.”
For many ordinary Americans, gun ownership is synonymous with self-reliance, and they inhabit a culture in which hunting has both mythic and popular appeal. Following the waves of tragedy that sweep throughout American history, guns will remain a vital part of US culture, as will gun violence.
To accompany the exhibition, the limited-edition book features brief interviews with the shooters. Through the images and the short accompanying text, we see a snapshot of the attitudes towards guns, gun use and gun ownership in America. Guns are normalised, part of everyday life, a leisure activity for ‘sport and protection’.
The photographs were taken on a 5 x 4 Inch plate camera and are printed on archival digital etch paper. Each photograph is 30 x 22 in / 76 x 57 cm and is an edition of 7.
Jane Hilton : LA Gun Club
February 12 – March 23, 2024
30 Bond St.
New York, NY 10012